$3.4 Million Grant Awarded for Study Addiction-Recovery Drugs
The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) was awarded $3.4 million by the National Institute on Drug Abuse for efforts to develop what may become the first drugs effective in helping people overcome addiction to cocaine and, potentially, compulsive overeating. Kathryn A. Cunningham, PhD, professor and interim chairman of neuropharmacology, and Chauncey Leake, distinguished professor of pharmacology, vice-chairman of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, and director of the Center for Addiction Research, will lead the effort.
Researchers will focus on components of the brain's signaling system that have been suggested by prior study to be key factors influencing the ability or the inability for an individual to recover from cocaine addiction. Scientists will focus on 2 types of serotonin receptors- the 5-HT2A and the 5-HT2C receptors. The UTMB researchers discovered that chemicals that increase the activity of the 5-HT2C receptor significantly reduce cocaine-induced behavior in rats, and that chemicals blocking the 5-HT2A receptor suppress stimuli-associated cravings in humans. In the laboratory, rats trained to associate lights and sound with pressing a lever to self-administer cocaine and then denied the drug for a period, pressed the lever when later exposed to the same sounds and lights-a process likened to relapse. However, when the 5-HT2C receptor was activated or when the 5-HT2A receptor was blocked, the rate of "relapse" was significantly reduced. Investigators have recently conducted experiments, indicating that compulsive overeating and obesity may also be impacted by drugs affecting the 5-HT2A and the 5-HT2C receptors.
The study will be comprised of 3 parts: a clinical research component, a neurobiology project, and a drug-design project. The clinical research component, directed by Professor F. Gerard Moeller, MD, of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, will study the responses of cocaine addicts to 2 antidepressants that increase the …